NORTHEAST HARBOR – Robert Paochin Ho, 77, whose career was dedicated to public service work and community development, died Feb. 17, 2012, surrounded by his family at Mount Desert Island Hospital, Bar Harbor.

Robert Ho’s diverse life experiences took him around the globe, beginning with his childhood in northern China and ending with several decades on a small island off the coast of Maine. His father, Franklin Lien Ho, was one of the first Western-trained Chinese economists, graduating from Pomona College in California and receiving his doctorate from Yale University. His mother, Shwendji Yu Ho, among the earliest Chinese women to attend a Western college, also graduated from Pomona, where she met her future husband. Franklin soon went to Connecticut for graduate school, but he and Shwendji reconnected and married seven years later once they had returned to China. Robert, Bob to his friends and family, was born Ho Paochin, May 28, 1934, in Tianjin, China, where Franklin had founded the Institute of Economics at Nankai University. Bob’s childhood was marked by the turmoil of World War II and China’s civil war. While his father served as a cabinet minister for the Nationalist Party, the family moved first to Nanjing and then to the provisional capital of Chongqing. In 1941 a Japanese bomber destroyed their home, mistaking it for Chiang-Kai Shek’s compound. Bob’s twin brother was killed, but the rest of the family narrowly survived. While living in Shanghai in 1947, Bob tried to run away from home to join the rebels in the north, but a business associate of his father’s intercepted him on the train before he reached the war zone. Thus when Franklin moved the family to the U.S., having been elected to represent China on U.N. commissions on economics and population, he decided the safest place for his eldest son was a New England boarding school. At 13 years of age, Bob arrived at Northfield Mount Herman in northwestern Massachusetts. He spoke little English – in fact he’d received his American name only a few weeks prior at the California immigration center – and he knew no one at the school, but he soon picked up the language and made a home there for the next five years. When his family briefly returned to China in 1948 before settling for good in the U.S. the following year, Bob remained at Northfield, working summer jobs at the school’s farm. Bob attended Oberlin College, his schooling interrupted by a two-year stint in the Army, where he served in Korea. He returned to Oberlin to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government, and went on to earn a master’s degree in history from Columbia University. After graduate school he began a career of public service that included positions with Teacher Corps, American Field Service, CARE, Peace Corps, Institute of International Education and National Institute of Education. This work took him from Poland to the Philippines to Washington, D.C., before he settled in Maine. While living in New York City in 1964, Bob met Nancy Kimball and pursued her that summer to Paris and throughout Europe. He proposed to her on a boat ride from Algiers to Marseille, and they married in November of that year at a friend’s home in Connecticut. After living in New York City, Warsaw and Vermont, they moved to Nancy’s childhood home of Northeast Harbor on Maine’s Mount Desert Island in 1975. Bob continued his career in community development, working as training director with the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe following its historic land claim litigation against the state, then as executive director of Maine Rural Development Council, affiliated with the University of Maine. He served on multiple local and state boards and commissions, including a rural family counseling service, state commission on poverty among working parents, tribal mental health agency, state economic policy center and social change foundation. Bob’s work did not go unrecognized; his awards included a U.S. Forest Service Profile-In-Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Honor for “Reinventing Government,” S.B.A. Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year and Maine Legislature Joint House-Senate Resolution of Recognition. Though he officially retired five years ago, Bob remained as active as ever: setting up the information technology system for The Kimball Shop; traveling the world with family and friends; working on real estate projects and serving on Northeast Harbor’s Planning Board; regularly hiking and biking – including a walking across Spain and a bike tour through southern China; and spending time with his four grandchildren, all of whom now live on the island.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; his brother and sister, Samuel Ho and Pauline Ho Bynum; his son, Jonathan and daughter-in-law, Julie Havener; his son, Michael and daughter-in-law, Emi Kawakita; and his grandchildren, Wildes, Violet, Ronin and Saaya.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 26, at St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea, Shore Road, Northeast Harbor. The family suggests that those wishing to make contributions in Bob’s memory may do so to Maine Seacoast Mission, 127 West St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609, which is dedicated to supporting coastal families in need; or CARE Gift Center, P.O. Box 7039, Merrifield, VA 22116-9753, the international anti-poverty humanitarian organization. Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mount Desert. Condolences may be expressed at